How to become a coach: The ultimate 9-step guide

December 1, 2021

With total global revenue surpassing $2.8 billion in 2019, the coaching industry is booming. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) estimated that there were approximately 71,000 coach practitioners in 2019, a 33% increase since 2015. Our own research in 2021 estimates that there are as many as 120,000 people worldwide who use the term coach to describe themselves and earn all or a significant portion of their income from coaching (Passmore, 2021). 

Although the coaching industry was affected by COVID-19, ICF survey respondents are “very confident” that the coaching industry will emerge stronger after the pandemic. Our own research suggests that the global pandemic acted as a pivot point. While there had been a growing trend towards digital coaching, the pandemic accelerated this trend, with nearly 90% of coaches now expecting to be coaching online (Passmore, 2021). These coaches have recognized the benefits both for themselves and also their clients in terms of reduced travel time, flexibility and the ability to provide a more cost effective solution (Passmore, 2021).. 

Do you want to join the coaching industry? Explore our ultimate 9-step guide to becoming a coach.

Step 1: Understand what coaching is—and what it is not

Although there are similarities among coaching, mentoring, consulting, and psychotherapy (i.e. therapy, counseling), there are also very distinct differences. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. At CoachHub we have our own definition, based on a systemic review of definitions used across the industry over the past twenty years.

Given that coaching is about working with the whole person, coaches must be comfortable working not only with behaviors and skill, but also exploring thoughts and feelings. However coaches also need to recognize when an issue goes beyond the scope of coaching, such as in mental health. 

At CoachHub we are clear about the lines between coaching and therapy. With our own team of psychologists, we have produced guidance on what to look for, as well as when and how to refer to one of the other helping professions. 

Step 2: Reflect on why you want to become a coach

Before you research training programs and credentialing bodies, take a second to reflect on why you want to become a coach. Studies show that coaching can increase employee confidence, goal attainment, and psychological well-being, among other benefits. And on the business side, organizations can experience improved retention, employee engagement, and increased revenue. Why are you interested in becoming a coach? When you define your ‘why,’ you make your path forward more intentional.

Step 3: Consider the type of coaching you want to provide

When you look at the coaching industry, there are a wide variety of coaches. This is largely the result of different methodologies, frameworks, and mindsets. Before you make a choice of one model over another, we would suggest you look for programs that equip you in multiple models. In this way you are best equipped to adapt and flex to meet your clients needs, rather than focus them into the single solution or model from your training. Before you invest in training, or enroll in a coaching certification program, consider the type of coach you want to be. You may also want to reflect on the people you prefer to work with, the niche you want to serve, for example a business segment or sub-market, such as marketing teams in legal firms. 

Step 4: Decide if you want to pursue training, additional education, or certification

In an unregulated industry like coaching, certifications might not be seen as essential. There are some people who believe you can be a successful coach without a certification. But the market is changing. More companies and clients are expecting their coaches to have a certification. Of course in all markets there are certifications and certificates. The best options are courses which are accredited by either main global coaching bodies, EMCC Global or ICF. These will help you ensure your course maps to the requirements of these bodies, making your own accreditation easier. It’s also worth thinking about the reputation of the training provider. There is a vast difference between high end programs, such as a global business school with a faculty of thought leaders, and a small provider operating in a single city with 2 or 3 trainers who train coaching skills alongside a host of other activities. 

Step 5: Compare different credentialing bodies

A coaching certification can help distinguish top coaches from less-qualified practitioners. If you choose to pursue coaching certification, and select a program that’s accredited by a credentialing body that essentially approves the training program.

At CoachHub we have programs accredited by the three largest coaching organizations: International Coaching Federation (ICF), European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC), and Association for Coaching (AC), although there are hundreds of coaching bodies worldwide. 

Step 6: Evaluate various coaching and certification programs

Individual training programs can be accredited by the above credentialing bodies. For instance, to find ICF-accredited programs, you can use ICF’s Training Program Search Service (TPSS), a free directory. When a program is accredited by a major credentialing body, it means the program’s curriculum has been rigorously reviewed to ensure that it aligns with the credentialing body’s definition of coaching, core competencies, and ethics. When you compare coaching programs, here are a few questions to consider.

What type of program do you prefer?

Within ICF, there are two options: ACSTH and the  Accredited Coach Training Programs (ACTP). These programs are mapped to the ICF competencies. The EMCC programs are the same. Typically ICF programs are more widely recognized in the Americas and the EMCC more widely recognized in Europe, reflecting the size of membership of both bodies in their respective continental homes. 

What delivery method do you prefer?

How do you learn best? Do you enjoy virtual training or do you benefit from in-person learning? Use these preferences to inform your program choice.

Do you want to pursue a coaching specialty?

You do not need to choose a niche immediately, but as a second step in your coach development, after securing accreditation it may be helpful to secure further training in your preferred area. However, again be careful about what is promised. Many providers offer training in personal models, so ask about the research evidence underpinning the model before you sign up.

Step 7: Earn hours toward your coaching credential and pass an assessment

No matter the credentialing body you associate with, when you apply for credentials, you’ll be required to demonstrate a set number of hours of coaching experience. ICF’s first credentialing path, Associate Certified Coach (ACC), requires applicants “…to have completed at least 60 hours of coach-specific training, a minimum of 100 hours of client coaching experience, [and] 10 hours of mentor coaching over a minimum of three months.” In addition to accruing coaching hours, you will also need to pass a knowledge assessment that tests your understanding of coaching, the core competencies of the program, and your knowledge of the credentialing body’s code of ethics.

Step 8: Discover and articulate your unique approach to coaching

If you are offering services to clients they will want to understand more about your approach. You will need to articulate your approach to coaching to differentiate yourself in the industry. Prospective coachees need to understand the value you provide your expertise and how your work is informed by science or evidence. 

Step 9: Offer coaching independently and/or join a platform like CoachHub

Lastly, before you launch your coaching services, decide whether you want to promote your coaching independently and/or apply to join a platform like CoachHub. CoachHub coaches can self-select hours, work remotely from anywhere, and leverage CoachHub’s software. To become a CoachHub coach, applicants must possess a certification from a leading association, more than six years of managerial experience, and at least 500 coaching hours. Of course many coaches choose to do both, to have some private work, while also benefiting from working for a platform like CoachHub.

As we emerge from the pandemic, the coaching industry will continue to grow. Given the rapid rate of technological change and the need for remote training, IBISWorld predicts that many companies will use business coaching and training offered by the industry. If you’re interested in becoming a coach, first understand what coaching is, what it isn’t, and why you want to become a coach. Then, if it makes sense, pursue a credentialing path. The industry could benefit from your industry experience and skillset!

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The leading global digital coaching platform

CoachHub is the leading global talent development platform that enables organizations to create a personalized, measurable and scalable coaching program for the entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. By doing so, organizations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention. CoachHub’s global pool of coaches is comprised of over 3,000 certified business coaches in 70 countries across six continents with coaching sessions available in over 60 languages, to serve more than 500 clients. Our programs are based on advanced R&D from our Coaching Lab, led by Prof. Jonathan Passmore and our Science Council. CoachHub is backed by leading tech investors, including Draper Esprit, Holtzbrinck Ventures, Partech, RTP Global, Signals Venture Capital and Speedinvest. In September 2021, CoachHub acquired French digital coaching pioneer MoovOne to build a global champion focused on jointly democratizing coaching.
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